If children in the Millennial Generation were thought to be raised by overprotective parents, then Generation Z is being raised by underprotective parents. It’s as if the one thing you don’t want to do as a parent is to be (using the pejorative words of the day) hovering, smothering, babying, coddling or sheltering. The insinuation is that it’s wrong to be overprotective, but it’s not wrong to be underprotective. If you’re going to make a mistake, make a mistake by being loose, playing fast and free, and not protecting enough. Because the one big parenting sin is believed to be protecting too much.
Reflect on this in relation to Generation Z. In other words, consider the effect of an underprotective family environment in a day of sexting and Facebook, bullying in schools and internet porn, cutting and hooking up. When children need to be protected as never before, they are met with a parenting culture that is less protective than at any other time in recent history.
The proper assumption with regard to parenting is simple: children are immature and need parental maturity. Parents are to be informed, involved and in charge. Children are not little adults; they are children. Consider how the following list of rules parents should follow regarding kids and technology would be perceived by the average parent today:
1. Limit their phone minutes, texts and online hours. Don’t let it take over their lives.
2. Don’t ever let them see a movie you haven’t reviewed thoroughly on the front end, regardless of its rating.
3. Don’t let them sleep with their cell phone under their pillows or by their beds. Phones should be turned off at bedtime.
4. Have times of the day they have to turn their phone off and times when texting isn’t allowed—such as family vacations or family outings.
5. Don’t allow cell phones at the dinner table.
6. Tell your kids not to share their passwords with their friends – not even their best friends.
7. Keep all computer use in a public area.
8. Don’t allow TVs in their rooms.
9. Don’t let them be on Facebook unless they friend you.
10. Don’t let them join any social media prior to the stated age.
Most likely half of these would be considered almost unthinkable to the average parent of a Generation Z child, which means that in the name of freedom and independence, Generation Z has grown up with the entirety of the world in their vision. As a result, childhood slowly evaporates. Or as author Neil Postman has written, in having access to the previously hidden fruit of adult information, the child is expelled from the garden of childhood.
But the self-directed nature of Generation Z isn’t simply a byproduct in parenting from “helicopter” to “free range.” It’s about the changing nature of childhood itself.
James Emery White
James Emery White, Meet Generation Z.
Neil Postman, The Disappearance of Childhood.
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About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.